The weather is beautiful, so I have to look hard to hate. But I did. It’s time to rain a little hate on our glorious language. Let’s talk about “mansplaining.”
I first learned about “mansplaining” on Feministing (a blog I usually adore). “Mansplaining” is when someone goes on and on about a topic, explaining it to a woman (or anyone else), without listening to anyone else, or imagining that the other person might know something about said topic. Many people see it as a yet another way of crushing women’s voices, particular in academia.
I don’t deny that this phenomenon happens, and the example of it (a writer is at a dinner party, a guest says “what do you write?” She said “I recently wrote a book about X”. The other guest says “Oh, I recently read a book about X,” and went on and on, ignoring the writer who was trying to say “Um, actually, I wrote that book.”) is powerful. However, it is not limited to men.
I went to a fancy-schmancy college. I was surrounded by people who had always been told they were smart, and who had done well in school. They held forth on whatever topic they felt like. They argued, performed, told their piece, looked for praise for their brilliance, and did not always listen to what other people said. The listener could be asleep or dead for all the talker cared. Men maybe did it slightly more often than women, but women I knew did it too.
The real damage behind “mansplaining” is that the men who listen, who participate in conversation, even those who sometimes talk too much but still know how to listen are branded as “mansplainers.” The real damage is that you can write someone off as “mansplaining” without trying to say something, or correct their behavior. It lets women who are insensitive talkers off the hook.
It’s reductionist and sexist, and punishes the gender rather than the behavior. It presumes that women always listen. It’s a short slide from “women always listen” to “women are natural caregivers”.
What words do you hate?